Upcoming Live Music In Louisville

By Bob Bahr

May is frontloaded with great acts, but visits from some notable artists keep the month hummin' well after Derby Week. One of the most exciting prospects is the all-ages Morphine/16 Horsepower concert at the Brewery on May 1. Morphine, as you may know, is an eccentric trio playing the alternative rock equivalent of film noir using baritone sax, two-string bass and a barebones drum kit. 16 Horsepower reportedly are a thrashbilly band. With James Brown playing for free across town at the Belvedere earlier that night, music fans are going to have to haul butt to hear both shows.

The next night, country music fans get a danceable double dose from the accomplished showmen in Sawyer Brown and Kentucky boy Billy Ray Cyrus. It's the Phillip Morris Festival of Stars concert, and it's at Freedom Hall on May 2.

After that show, head over to Phoenix Hill Tavern for Strutter, the KISS tribute band that is reportedly better at doing KISS than KISS is. Fulfilling a longstanding tradition, the Velcro Pygmies will also entertain in the Saloon during Derby Weekend. We're talking May 2 here.

Remember the Derby Eve Jams? This year's incarnation of the rowdy concert series features three scarlet-necked country rockers: Hank Williams, Jr., the Charlie Daniels Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. Find yer bandanna and stock up on the Jim Beam; the boys will be getting rowdy at Freedom Hall on May 3. Playing music in a somewhat different vein that same night is Yer Girlfriend, who will light up the stage at the Main Exchange. This Louisville band has a national reputation, and it's fully warranted. Meanwhile, the Velcro Pygmies continue their stand at Phoenix Hill Tavern, on May 3, getting help from For Squirrels, the Nixons, Johnny Socko and the Kelly Richey Band, and on May 4 the Pygmies are joined by the rain chorus, Edenstreet, Starbilly, and the reunion of Another Mule.

The Allman Brothers Band seems to always hit Louisville in the spring, and often during Derby Week. They miss the Derby festivities by one day this year with their May 5 concert at the Palace Theatre. If you don't have tickets already, sorry Charlie. The concert sold out over two months ago.

Tickets for the Bob Dylan show may still be available, although they too are going fast. Sure, Bobby D. puts in as many bad performances as good ones, but the opener for this May 7 show — Aimee Mann — guarantees that ticket holders will hear some good music. It's at the Palace.

On a quite different tack is Zeni Geva, an alternative-like heavy rock band that will do its part to peel the paint at the Toy Tiger. The May 7 show gets a boost from opener Today Is The Day.

May 8 brings another sold-out show: former 10,000 Maniac Natalie Merchant. Her solo album Tigerlilly has caught fire among the folks who grew up on early alternative rock. Once again, if you're not holding, you're not going.

They are familiar faces in this town, and this is one person who is always glad to see them. Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets (featuring Sam Myers), a fine, fine blues band, plays Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium on May 9.

A quick scan of their album at ear X-tacy's listening station found the band Self to be a modern pop band with a variety of styles at their disposal. Their record is reportedly selling well in the area, which means their May 10 show at Phoenix Hill Tavern may be crowded. Get there early. The next night at Phoenix Hill, Capitol recording artists the Figgs are joined by Triple Fast Action for a little power-pop showdown. That's May 11, in case you lost count.

Shelter's legion of followers is big enough to pillage a small town. Good thing for us they are non-violent. Come see the punk disciples throw it down at the Brewery on May 12. All ages are invited.

Some nostalgia trips are scarier than others. The May 13 double bill of Nazareth ("Love Hurts") and Blue Oyster Cult ("Don't Fear the Reaper") has to rank about a 7 on the scare-O-meter. That said, I've heard from a number of different people that BOC still rocks like madmen.

Once upon a time, Coyote's was exclusively a piano bar. While that part of the complex — Hurricane O'Malley's — has been overshadowed by the popularity of Coyote's, an act like Bruce Hornsby brings it all back. Hornsby is a solid songwriter and a nimble pianist who has worked with Bela Fleck, the Grateful Dead, and a host of other acts. He's at Coyote's on May 14; God Street Wine opens the show.

Regardless of your age or sensibilities, you'll appreciate "West Side Story," Leonard Bernstein's modern musical interpretation of the Romeo & Juliet story. A staging of the musical will play the Kentucky Center for the Arts starting May 17. Having missed Dread Zeppelin every time they've come through Louisville, I can't comment on their live show. But the reggae/Elvis/Led Zep cover band is certainly an uneven producer in the studio. Their first record was a brilliant blending of three very different musical styles, resulting in bizarre hybrids ("Black Dog/Hound Dog," "Heartbreaker/Heartbreak Hotel") and loopy interpretations ("Immigrant Song"). The last two studio efforts have been a bit limp. See Tortelvis and Co. flailing it live at the Phoenix Hill Tavern on May 21.

Songwriting is the thing for Loose Diamonds, a rootsy band that impressed the gathered industry folks at South By Southwest in March. The band is a favorite at the Butchertown Pub, where they will be playing on May 22. The Cutters, an original rock band from Indy, will open. The next night at the Pub, a rockin' group that plays surf instrumentals, Los Straitjackets, take the stage.

What's a month without a Lonesome Pine Special concert? It ain't nothing, buddy. May's entry features The Tab Benoit Blues Band and Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers. Check them out at the Kentucky Center for the Arts on May 24.

The Southern rock band .38 Special will end the month with a bang on May 26. Yep, that's right — "Hold On Loosely" and "Caught Up in You," long hair, Camaros, "Cruisin' down the motorway/Got my girl by my side." It's the second-most scary nostalgia show of the month, and it's at Coyote's.